Is Illinois' FOID Policy Discriminatory?

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posted on March 30, 2011
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A rule change quietly made to the Illinois firearms ownership registration system earlier this year could potentially prohibit hundreds of otherwise law-abiding state citizens from legally owning firearms in the Land of Lincoln.

As a result, an entire community of citizens who hold special beliefs and adhere to strict customs could be barred from purchasing and owning guns and ammunition, a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Until this year, those who follow the Amish faith in Central Illinois have been exempt from having their photographs on state-issued Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) cards. Since 1968, the cards have been required for firearms and ammunition purchases and gun ownership in Illinois.

The Amish hold strict religious beliefs and are also known for being uncomfortable with photography, especially posed photography, which they believe leads to idolatrous vanity.

On Feb. 14, Illinois State Police Director Jonathon Monken, now the head of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, announced that the photo exemption would cease, meaning every gun owner in the state—regardless of religious beliefs—must meet the strict FOID photographic identification requirements.

While their beliefs forbid the Amish from bearing arms against others for any purpose, they regularly use guns to provide food for their families and to keep their fields and crops varmint-free.

The Mattoon Journal-Gazette reported that Amish residents have met with state lawmakers and law enforcement principals in an effort to rescind the ruling they believe is an intrusion on their privacy.

Pennsylvania and Ohio, other states with large Amish populations, each allow exemptions for photographs on state documents when religious beliefs forbid a person from having his or her photo taken. In those cases, individuals must provide a form stating their religious objections, along with a bishop's signature.

"A lot of the Amish hunt and they usually use squirrel or rabbit rifles to bring some food back home. Their big concern is this means they won't be able to purchase guns or ammo. They have a religious edict against photographs," said Douglas County Sheriff Charlie McGrew.

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